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Barely breaking even

Discussion in 'Finances and Fundraising' started by PhoenixFeather88, May 12, 2017.

  1. PhoenixFeather88

    PhoenixFeather88 (Newbie)

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    Hi all,

    I came to a new unit (not a new Guider, but I moved areas) in September and I've been doing the accounts since then. We're barely breaking even with our income (subs) minus the minimum expenditure it takes to simply exist (census and hall rent). We are starting to implement steps to solve this (fundraising etc) but I was just wondering if anyone else is in the similar position of barely breaking even, before added costs of resources/materials and other general costs are added into the mix?

    Our hall rent is the biggest contributor to expenses, being £20 per night (we meet so many weeks in the year that it has equated to £760 for this academic year!). Basically if we lose even one girl we wouldn't be in a position to pay the rent, even with the less census fee cost.

    I'm having a bit of a meltdown over the accounts at the minute...!

    Thanks
     
  2. Kochanski

    Kochanski Regular (50+ posts)

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    I've just set up a new unit so we got help which was a blooming good job as we started from zero. My assistant likes to spend money and I'm trying to rein her in! I've recently written her an e-mail with lots of ideas for free or low cost activities and would be happy to forward it to you if you PM me with your address.

    We also are paying £20 a night for rent. We ask for a promise fee which covers census the first year. We do fundraisers and apply for grants but the big difference is I'm an experienced Guider and can run a term's programme on fresh air, a piece of string and 5 bits of card while she is new and thinks there has to be a craft every week. When things are tight, we have to adjust our expectations and we *really* enjoy the times there is money to spend!
     
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  3. Quack

    Quack Veteran (100+ posts) Staff Member Moderator GuiderPlus

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    So starting with the basics...have you done a budget and can you contemplate an increase in subs ? Do you claim gift aid on your subs?

    Then yes, fundraising helps and running no or low cost activities for a while but we do need to have funds to physically run the unit, resources, badges etc so the girls and their parents need to understand that you have to increase your income. Appeal to them, do any of them work for organisations that do grants or match funding for charities that they are involved in ? Can your local parish council give a grant to tide you over? A lot of places insist on a 'cause' or a project but our local scouts have just applied to help with 'equipment' that can cover a multitude of sins, paper, card, pens etc..
     
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  4. Tawnyowl51

    Tawnyowl51 Veteran (100+ posts)

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    Do you claim Gift Aid?
    How much are you subs? Do you collect weekly or termly? I would strongly recommend termly.


    We got over £400 this year in gift aid. We pay nearly £30 per week rent, but only in school term times, so our annual rent is about the same as yours, way up into the hundreds of pounds every term. We subsidise trips, residentials, and district events with this money, and we do not need to do any fundraising. Subs are £30 per term and there are about 20 girls give or take a few at any given time of year.
    Having said that, we often do evenings that cost us nothing but time and the girls enjoy these as much an any other night. They do not have to take home something every week, enthusiasm and a new skill is just as important as a 'thing'
    lots of free and very low cost activities are available, ideas on here and other places, and from Kochanski
     
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  5. AngliaGuider

    AngliaGuider Beginner (10+ posts)

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    Budget, termly subs (or a monthly standing order) so you are not chasing up missing weekly payments, gift aid, and being realistic about how much you need to charge. I budget on the basis that we should not need to fundraise to achieve basic running costs. Fundraising goes toward special activities, but we should be able to run a standard programme with no fundraising at all.

    For me, that means:
    upload_2017-5-12_20-23-40.png

    Having said that, this year it isn't working quite that way - I opened a new unit at Christmas with 11 girls (Feb census paid by the original Guide unit), but our fundraising this year is covering our census shortfall expected next year. I set aside a third of the expected census bill from subs, which accrues over the calendar year and pays census the following February, but as we're growing from 11 to 24 over the course of 12 months we won't have received subs from the full 24 all year, so we'll be short. Once we get to next year we'll be working on a more standard one in, one out basis and we'll be back to 'normal' in terms of the budget. The first year for a new unit is really, really tough - you do need to count every penny.

    Our activities budget is £10 per term per Guide for evening meetings (£5 for an 'expensive' evening - something like a visit to an activity centre, and £5 for everything else), plus £6 for a sleepover. We're lucky enough to be able to camp for free at a local venue, so we're only really paying for food most of the time. One sleepover of the three we'll do something a bit more spendy, but we make it even out. Our rent is relatively low, but if you have to pay more then you can charge more. Unless you're very creative with fundraising, the money comes mostly from the parents anyway. I take the decision that I don't have time to give to extensive fundraising - we do a gift aid claim (which subsidises our camp costs), a bag pack one evening a year and a Christmas fair. I think I'll stretch to a third activity next year, one per term, but that is it. I have asked for a parent to volunteer to be a fundraising champion, though, so we'll see what comes of that!

    I have come to the conclusion over the years that it is good to be frugal, but it is also OK not to be super cheap. Guiding costs what it costs, and compared with music lessons or swimming or dance: we're probably charging about as much per term as those cost per month. We shouldn't beat ourselves up about charging a realistic figure.
     
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  6. Tregi

    Tregi Veteran (100+ posts)

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    Can you look at meetings outside the meeting place to lower your rent costs? (Assuming you pay per week) over the summer you can do parks, chip shop walks, or even meeting with other units????

    Sent from my SM-G850F using Tapatalk
     
  7. syfyowl

    syfyowl Beginner (10+ posts)

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    We keep our costs down a bit by organising things outside the meeting place. We've got outdoor space a few roads away so will often spend a meeting there, over the past year we've done stargazing, litter picks and bird feeder making, kite making and flying, scavenger hunts and ball games. We've also gone geocaching, had an evening at a Pets At Home store and are going on a Farm To Fork Trail at Tescos. Our local Tesco and Asda also have community rooms that you can use for free - if you have something similar nearby this might be an option for a different meeting place once in a while?
     
  8. caroline68

    caroline68 Regular (50+ posts)

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    You don't mention how much subs are, but it would seem to me that may be the place to start and as others have said above, we should charge what it costs. Our subs are £35 per term and our rent is £15 per session. I haven't got around to claiming gift aid yet, (we are less than two years old!), but we are managing with a little suprplus for any emergencies. Good luck!
     
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  9. kingfisherblue

    kingfisherblue Veteran (100+ posts)

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    Caroline is right - you need to look at your income (subs) and expenditure (starting with rent). We charge half termly, as it is more doable for parents, especially if they have more than one child in Guiding. Our room hire is £10 a week and we charge £15 per half term.

    You say that losing just one girl will create a major problem with paying rent, so can you increase numbers as well? Perhaps a bring-a- friend night? Or could you move to a different venue? Low numbers prompted us to move in September, and we have increased to our top capacity (based on room size) since then. Our new venue is smaller, with a tiny kitchen but great outdoor space, and we can have sixteen girls. Our old venue was in a worse area, so no going outside, but had a big hall and kitchen, and we could have taken up to 24 - but never got anywhere near that, and used to lose children once the sun came out (as one parent told me, they don't have to pay for the kids to play outside!). We have found it better to have a smaller but regular number rather than battling to increase numbers all the time, but you have to find out what works for you.
     
  10. Burghilly

    Burghilly Veteran (100+ posts)

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    When planning for the term I calculate how much I can spend per girl, per week (after rent) Last term when numbers were low it work out as £1.25 per girl ,per week. My colleague who does junior cricket coaching was staggered- he couldn't work out how you could possible run activities for so little but I then pointed out that we're Guiders - we're amazing!!

    Like others have mentioned I try and do several weeks where it cost nothing. Eg. learning to tie knots ( rope already in the cupboard) or trying out morse code / semaphore ( Each girl brings a torch for the evening) Scavenger hunt - no cost, fire lighting - free ( girls bring their own bit of twigs and wood as part of learning what burns and what doesn't ) Rounder game with the Brownies at the park - bats borrowed from the local school but otherwise free.

    I'll then 'save up' all the money from the free nights and not feel bad about spending out on a one -off. We managed a several 'spend free' weeks last term and the money saved was spend making really special Mothers Day gifts.

    I also agree with another comment - Guiding is very good value for money. Most other activities for kids cost way more, so don't feel bad if you have to increase the subs. Although it is possible to run a unit on fresh air , it's hard work and the stress and worrying about the money can be draining. I hope you manage to sort something out.
     
  11. chopperchick

    chopperchick Veteran (100+ posts) Staff Member Moderator GuiderPlus

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    Have a meltdown over last year's accounts by all means, and what has already been spent this year ........... but control your stress levels by working out specifics of a budget :)
    I think we're all too guilty of equaling "voluntary" with "must be cheaper than free" sometimes.

    Work out the budget, based on what's been spent before. Then review it - because everything you did spend before, and plan on spending now, can be up for debate. As is everything you earn. My personal preference is that subs (regular money from girls) covers all known weekly costs. Fundraising (incl Gift Aid) covers specific events / replacement purchases etc. If not, then you have to be able to react if "fundraising" levels are low for some reason.
    You can review everything - meeting elsewhere, the number of badges you've traditionally issued, reliance on prepaid activities (although do balance against the time needed to prep these yourself).

    Be honest with the parents too. Call a parents' meeting if you feel there might be reluctance to raising fees, and explain your situation. One-off donations might help you get back on a more even keel, but be realistic about how reliable they might be in the future.

    Having said that, what do you consider as "barely breaking even"? I don't mean an exact number, but as we're not trying to make a profit, it's not unreasonable that we don't have "a lot" of money left over. Some units will have built up some savings (too much sometimes, but that's another story), some will carry a slush fund across from term-to-term allowing for upfront payments to be made. But we shouldn't plan on having loads spare.
     
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  12. kemuri

    kemuri Guide Guider

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    Are you subsidising sleepovers from subs? If you're only paying £6 per girl for a sleepover, then surely it's difficult to ask the parents for that small amount?

    Normally, you charge extra for sleepovers/holidays/camps/daytrips. We're going on camp and charging £45 per girl for two nights, and that covers ground fees, food, activities and contingency, and the money the girls pay also cover the leaders costs too. If there is any money left over from camp (say we over estimated) then we split the amount per person and give it back to the parents.
     
  13. AngliaGuider

    AngliaGuider Beginner (10+ posts)

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    Yes, sleepovers come from subs. We usually have a very high take-up - 90-100%. It is short - usually about 2pm to 10am and we camp for free in the grounds of a local venue we have connections to and do free/very cheap activities - wide games, etc. and crafts using materials we already have. So unless we choose to go somewhere else as a special occasion, we are only paying for the catering. We used to charge separately for the termly sleepover, but the admin of collecting in two separate payments was time-consuming and parents didn't like being asked for extra bits of money here and there. This way, it is predictable. Parents can pay either one lump sum each term or a monthly standing order, and as it is the same amount every term there is no confusion and we don't have to keep asking for extras.

    We do charge separately for summer camp. There we have a lower take-up (usually around 75%), and it is a bigger amount of money as we go away for a week. On the rare occasion we go on expensive day trips/Big Gig etc. we charge extra for those too, but they are rare - once a year at the most, often every other year.
     
  14. Trinny

    Trinny Veteran (100+ posts)

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    I've got two ideas:
    1) Run a summer fun day (maybe at your meeting place?) but charge slightly more than it costs to run. So do it 9-4pm, get the girls to make a very simple vegetable soup for lunch (also an activity). Sell it as a summer fun day, or maybe a badge day (cook's badge? You'd only need to make 1 more thing, and learn about handwashing etc, which is very cheap to do) and open it up to your Brownies and others in neighbouring units.
    2) Increase subs. I have my own little story about this, but that's the gist.

    Recently I made a pie chart that shows what subs is spent on (per girl per year). It went something like:
    £30 - annual census (increases yearly above inflation)
    Rent - £10 per year (using current numbers of girls)
    Leaders' costs - £3. This includes census for 1 leader and any necessary training
    Badges - £5 per year. After essential badges such as Six badges, adventure wedges, sixer/seconder pins, that's about £3 for interest badges or any challenges.
    Activities - the remainder! £60 - £48 = £12 per year. We meet for 30 nights a year, so that's 40p per meeting.

    40p a meeting?!?

    So I sent this information to all parents. I also gave them another pie chart that showed the breakdown if they were to pay an extra £5 per term: there would be an extra 50p per girl per meeting for activities. Our activity budget would more than double, for only the price of a coffee. It was a no-brainer. I didn't have a single parent comment, in fact most of them couldn't even remember how much it was last term!

    Anyway, now I'm much less stressed. If a girl earns an interest badge at home, I can award it proudly without thinking of how I need to run another free meeting. I can accommodate more of the girls' decisions, like more cooking and more craft. I can leave girls to decide if they go to guides this term or next, without worrying about the increased rent per girl. For your sanity, just increase subs.
     
  15. fenris

    fenris fenris GuiderPlus

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    Sleepover is an optional extra - have never heard of anyone not charge it separately - and it should be charged at cost price anyway.
     
  16. TIGGER 66

    TIGGER 66 Regular (50+ posts)

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    what a worry for you I would be looking to see if could meet elsewhere is there not a church hall near that would be cheaper ? I always find parents will happily pay to the moon for eg dancing lessons golf etc but when it comes to Guiding they can be reluctant to fork out . we were in a situation more going out than coming in a few years ago my Asst took over the accountancy side and with more forward planning we were soon back on an even keel Good luck
     
  17. MummyOwl

    MummyOwl Brownie Leader

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    An increase in subs appears to be a sensible first step. I have, in the past, broken down a term's subs into "what you get for your money" to parents... and it's amazing how they then think it's value for money!
    We charge £25 a term and average 10 meetings a term... so tell the parents that it's only £2.50 a week... which is only £1.66 an hour (if you have a 1.5 hour meeting). This pays for hall hire, activity costs and craft materials, badges, refreshments (if you provide a glass of squash and/or a biscuit, for example), PLUS insurance, training for the Leaders (including First Aid and Safety training, which keeps their child/ren safe)... but it DOESN'T include Leaders' time (as we are all volunteers who do this for free! - it's amazing how many parents don't know this), nor does it cover preparation time, admin and paperwork, etc... My point is, once they know what they're getting for their money, you are more likely to succeed in asking for a little bit more!

    It sounds like you've taken the first step... which is to ask for help/advice. Well done - and I hope you continue to run a fantastic unit.
     

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